I did something a few days ago that really upset me.
The photo above is what my mushrooms looked like when I bought them from SAMS. But, I was
bringing home pain medication for my 13 year old sous chef who had just had some fairly aggressive oral surgery earlier in the day. I was distracted and left an 18 ounce package of mushrooms in a ninety degree car .... for over two hours!
Let's just say that the mushrooms didn't look the same when I finally found them later that evening.
It wasn't losing the $4.00 that the mushrooms cost, it was the act of throwing out food that really set me off.
I . HATE . WASTING . FOOD!
In 2015, CNBC reported that the average American family threw out just over $2000 worth of food every year! That's $165 MILLION as a nation! If that doesn't curl your hair consider that the New York Times stated in 2017 that "globally we throw out about 1.3 billion tons of food a year or a third of all the food that we grow." The most serious offenders are first world countries - where nearly forty percent of wasted food is not thrown out by businesses or restaurants, but by individual consumers.
What do we throw out? Statistically, fruits and vegetables come in first place in the "waste race". With dairy and then meat in second and third place, respectively.
I like to put things into a framework that is practical.
According to the USDA, a family of five (my normal family size) spends about $1000 a month on a "low cost" food plan or about $850 on a "thrifty" food plan. Without getting into my opinion of how outrageously high I find either of these options, I'd like to just note that the amount of food wasted by the average American family is like taking $1000 to the store and then throwing a couple of $100 bills out the window on your way to the store. I know! No one would do that. It's CRAZY! But, that's what most people do when they buy food and then wind up throwing it out.
Is Zero Percent Waste Possible?
I have to say, "no". Even as careful as I am, the example with which I began this blog post shows you that I, too, occasionally throw out food.
So, how can families reduce their food waste?
- Have a stated goal. Our family has pledged to one another that our goal is to waste no more than three percent of what we buy. That leaves room for an occasional "oops" and basically allows us all to be human.
- Communicate really clearly about what food is in the fridge. When my boys clear the table each night, they put the leftovers into rubbermaid or other plastic containers. They label the top of each container with a black dry erase marker. The name of the dish goes on the top. They then tell me what containers they put the leftovers into and how they labelled it. Then plan to use it up! By the way, writing the date on the container is a great idea too! This insures that you eat it up before it goes bad.
- Inventory what you have and devise a plan to use it! As soon as I get back from the store, (or pick up our weekly CSA share) I look at the produce and list it in the order in which I need to use it. For instance, I know that I need to use leaf lettuce early in the week, but cabbage will easily weather the distance from Monday to Saturday and still be edible. So, create either a mental or written hierarchy of your available food.
- Bulk cook and then freeze it. I periodically bulk cook. I did a series of blog posts on how to bulk cook. It really does save time and money! In fact, bulk cooking figures heavily in my plan to get through the month of June while spending just $320 on groceries for seven people - five of whom are adults!
- If you know it will rot before you can use it, then freeze it! A huge amount of produce is freezable. I realize that there are exceptions. Don't freeze celery. (I've done it. It doesn't end well.) But, much of what we buy can be frozen for later use.
Here are a couple of my favorite quick freezing tips:
- Herbs can be chopped and placed into small yogurt containers. Pour in just enough water to cover the fresh herbs. Place in freezer. When firm, pop out your herbal ice and place in freezer bags.
- Green onions can be chopped and placed in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer. When the green onion pieces are firm, remove them from the tray and place in freezer bags. Since you froze them singularly, they won't stick together in a clump. You can pour them right out of the bag to use them and they will come out in beautiful single pieces.
- Grapes and berries can be frozen in the same way. Frozen grapes are a great, low calorie treat on a hot summer day. This is also a great way to save produce, which has been purchased at rock-bottom prices.
- Allrecipes has a nice, succinct tutorial on how to freeze fruits and vegetables - here.
Did I miss anything??
If you have any tips on how to not waste food, post them below! I'd love to hear them!
Remember to Enter My June Contest!
If you've not already entered, head over to our contest page! Click here! You can read all about my June food budget challenge and enter for the chance to win a copy of of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.
Don't Miss Any of Our Posts!
Follow me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/underthemedian/
Sign up to receive e-mails by filling in the "follow by e-mail" link on the main page.
Do all to the glory of God,